Fifteen-year-old Lisa is stuck in a loop of reliving the last day of her life over and over again, knowing that she and her family are all ghosts while they don't. Soon Lisa starts connecting with the living girl who now resides in her house and tries to figure out the mystery of the place so her family does not suffer the same fate as Lisa's.
So as you can see, the typical ghost/haunted house story is a bit backwards here because the ghost is the main character but it makes more sense than most other ghost stories out there. Instead of the living person trying to solve the mystery of some long-dead person in order to save their souls or something - which I've always thought was sweet but rather pointless - there is a much more pressing reason for finding out what's going on. The living girl, Olivia, is going through the same thing that Lisa's family did before they died so both of the girls are doing some research on their ends of the time spectrum in order to save Olivia. I seriously love that kind of story because for me a lot of the time, it's more the story than the scares that really draws me into and makes me love a supernatural movie.
And with that being said, there are no real scares in Haunter. The imagery is good, and is actually well complimented from some CG work to mix some of the different worlds that Lisa moves through, but there are no real stand-out scenes that made me jump or feel even the least bit creeped out. Or if there were any scares here, they were of the PG-13 variety that might scare an 8-year-old - if Lisa's the dead one, what does she really have to be afraid of, right? I said that story is usually more important, though, and there are movies that can give both scares and story equally. Haunter doesn't need the scares, and is perfectly engaging enough without them. Odd and sudden changes in the routine of the day that Lisa is used to start to make things more interesting, just not necessarily terrifying in any way. There are a couple times when the movie is starting to get a little tedious and frustrating and then something (or someone) will show up that throws everything we've seen for a loop.
Like I said, Abigail Breslin is a doll, and has really grown up from her Little Miss Sunshine days. Her angsty teen act in the beginning is cute and easy enough, and the naturalness she's always had about her help through the rest of the movie. Stephen McHattie is delicious as always as the movie's bad guy. Sometimes his voice is all that's needed, you know? I also really enjoyed Peter Outerbridge as Lisa's dad Bruce, who himself is able to be quite creepy when the time comes.
Haunter also has some very cool imagery that mostly stems from the time jumps that occur. There's a great scene where Lisa is able to contact Olivia and take her place for a bit, and we get to see the stark contrast between the dark 1985 that Lisa lives in and the light and modern look of Olivia's 2013. There's also a little bit of a funny moment where Olivia leaves Lisa video message on her iPad and where the play button is confuses Lisa for a second. I also liked the opening credit sequence. The butterfly in the jars imagery is a great symbolic metaphor for the way the killer keeps all his victims, or his victims' souls, trapped in the house with him.
There are times where Haunter feels a lot longer than it is. It takes a while for each piece of the puzzle to finally fit together and when it does all come together, it is a fairly anticlimactic conclusion, but I'm cool with that. I loved the new approach that Haunter took to my beloved ghost stories and that it was well made enough and had great actors to bring the idea to life.